Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Day 28: Arrowstown to Glenorchy
Day 28: Arrowtown to Glenorchy
Note: THB decided to write this post in the order in which things happened today. This was the day of another devastating earthquake in Christchurch, and has dramatically affected the country and in a very small way our trip (though we aren’t sure yet how much) since we are due to fly out of Christchurch in 10 days. So, it is going to seem rather blithe, and for that many apologies.
Pics: A few in Queenstown, the rest in and around Blanket Bay Lodge, to/from the Routeburn Track hike (a very pretty drive by itself) and on the Track (note how modern the shelter looks at the beginning/end of the Track, a novelty here in NZ when it comes to architecture)
Breakfast at the B&B, including very good homemade yoghurt; total comes to $130. A short ride up the side of Lake Wakitipu and a walk around Queenstown. Then further along the lake to near the very small town of Glenorchy and one of two of our big splurge stays: Blanket Bay Lodge, owned by the former COO of Levi’s, Tom Tusher.
Needless to say, BB Lodge is fabulous: a great view across the lake to the west at sharply tall mountains striated with forest, green “pastures” (can’t tell, it is too far for these weak eyes to make out), bare rocks up in the heights. We get a tour of the place: where before-dinner drinks are served, the game room (including a giant TV with four remotes sitting on the table in front of the TV), various eating spots, etc. We have one of the lodge rooms (i.e., one of the cheaper rooms, which is scary…wait until THB posts the total bill!), which is lovely and a giant bathroom.
A lunch of pumpkin soup and warm baguette for THB and an open faced grilled chicken sandwich for DB, one soda, $32…with a view of the mountains (enshrouded as usual at the top) and the arrival and departure of two helicopters on the lawn just to the side of the lodge. One group gets out, greets another waiting on the lawn, the second copter arrives, they divide back into two groups and fly off.
The weather is actually damn nice: cool and intermittent sun (okay, mostly cloudy with a hint of sun and blue sky way off in the distance). So, of course, we decide to take a hike, on the Routeburn Track. This is normally a through hiking track, not that much of a daytripper spot, so we see many people with big packs on and a few like us, just out for an up and back. From this side, if you hike to the end in 2-3 days and catch a bus to the Milford Sound. This is the only place we see any number of French, strange because they are everywhere in India and Japan and the Southwest.
Another great hike!!! Two huge creeks crashing down either side of the mountain, suspension bridges, hobbit-like forests, and it is cool, unique in our NZ hiking history. It even starts to drizzle and then rain on the final leg, which feels great. See quite a bit of sheep on the ride to and from the hike, very picturesque on the lush green pastureland.
When we get back to BB Lodge, we learn that another earthquake has hit Christchurch, where we had planned to visit in seven days and fly from there to Sydney on the next to last day of our trip. We’re considering our options, including where it makes most sense to spend more time in place of Christchurch or even change which airport we’re leaving from. So, we’ve started soliciting advice on where to go instead and even if it still makes sense to fly from Christchurch. TBD…
We head down to pre-dinner drinks at 6:30pm, where we meet Americans that are just starting the trip (and somehow know other people staying here, even though there are only 13 rooms in the place), and other Americans that left Christchurch at 11:45am, probably the last to leave town via the air before the earthquake hit.
And we meet Tom and Pauline Tusher, the owners of BB Lodge, at the pre-dinner. Tom was at Levi’s for 28 years and THB 24, Tom retiring in 1997 as the COO and THB in 99, as just another worker in the tower of denim. We do some catching up (Tom is on THB’s ex-levi’s distro list, so in effect we’ve been staying in contact, albeit one way) and get a bit of the history of how Tom came to own the place, and that he also owns a well-known winery (Amisfield) that is renowned for the food. We had heard about it from other travelers. Ahhhhhh, bringing the Bay Area food aesthetic to NZ.
Dinner is very good, many courses including venison for THB, fish for DB, gnocchi, salads, tuna sashimi (probably the best course of all), and ice cream and lemon tart for dessert, and glasses of Amisfield sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.